P&Z to cell tower: Be heard, not seen

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Flower Mound Town Hall. Photo by Bill Castleman

Flower Mound Planning and Zoning Commissioners denied Verizon’s request for a Specific Use Permit (SUP) to build a cell tower on St. Nicholas Episcopal Church’s property, located north of Wichita Trail and east of Skillern Road.

The proposed self-supported tower and its eight-foot tall masonry enclosure meets the current Agricultural District  zoning; however, it’s designed to be 130-feet tall. To put that into perspective, that would be equal to more than two Big Tex statues or as tall as the Bruton Orand water tower.

As the official representative for Verizon, Karl Crawley, president of Masterplan Land Use Consultants, said the original tower proposition was requested as a single-carrier, but the town requested additional carriers– Sprint and T-Mobile– that requires additional height over the typical approximately 95- to 100-foot tower.

Resident Mike Kay spoke about the pending application submitted by AT&T for a small-cell tower, in addition to new technologies– like fifth-generation (5G) wireless– which will mean coverage can be improved with small-cell towers, or even on light poles.

“Small-cell technology allows you to have a very small radial that’s software driven,” he said. “And, it consumes a very small amount of power and can be placed at inconspicuous locations.”

“Their coverage is measured in feet, not hundreds or thousands of feet,” said Crawley. “But, you still have to go back to a central node. You still need that (large) tower to feed off of.”

There have been four recent requests to build a cell tower in the residential area– three of them by St. Nicholas– reported resident Steve Jones. But, Alfred Sanchez recalled the initial five requests began as far back as 2008, when Jody Smith was mayor.

This current request brings the total to nine; some were withdrawn and some were denied.

During the questions by commissioners for Crawley related to cell towers, Commissioner Laura Dillon queried what the height for a 5G tower node would be. Crawley had no answer.

“I’m disappointed that someone– who says he’s been in the cell tower business for 30-years– couldn’t answer how tall a central tower would need to be for the small cell technology,” she said.

Commissioners voted 4-to-1 not to recommend approval by the Town Council. Commissioner Al Picardi was the only nay vote citing his concern that people might need to go outside their homes to place 9-1-1 calls in an emergency.

Verizon’s SUP request is scheduled to be heard at the April 16 Town Council meeting.

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